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RAIN • by Katherine Lopez

Elena had known Jacob five years. She knew that Jacob had an ex-wife and two sons; that he had a girlfriend, and a young son; that sometimes he lived with the girl, often he didn’t. Sometimes he would try to talk to her about his personal problems, and she would cut him off. She’d say, Grow up, Jacob. She could talk to him that way because she was older than him, and he respected her. He was always telling her how much he admired her, her wisdom, her knowledge. Yeah whatever, she’d say.

He would call her in the evening; they would talk for hours. They both had jobs, but hers was more flexible, whereas he had to get up early for work. Still, he would talk to her late into the night. He would stand out on his porch in the dark to talk to her. Only when he said, I have to go, did they hang up the phone.

She was thinking about starting a small business. They talked about it on the phone and through e-mails. He’d say that she was being strung along by the people who were going to back her financially. Then he’d say that he was confident she could do it, could pull it off. Ultimately, she decided to go ahead, and he supported her. He told her he thought she was smart, honest, tough enough to succeed at the business. Shut up, she’d say.

He would ask her to coffee; they would get together for an hour and talk over coffee and pastry. One late afternoon he invited her out; it was a chilly day, the sky overcast, threatening rain. She said, Coffee sounds good. She walked the three blocks from her house, and he walked the three blocks from his house; the café where they met was on a street full of little shops, midpoint between their houses.

He bought them coffees and a cinnamon roll; usually they sat at a table or in two easy chairs but since they were sharing the roll, they sat together on a small sofa. They talked and ate the roll, which was fragrant and delicious, and drank their coffee. Through the windows, they could see the rain starting to fall. Inside, it was warm and cozy, people were sitting all around, chatting, working on their laptops, or reading and drinking their coffees.

The rain fell. Afternoon slipped into evening, finally into night. Each hour had its own beauty. The first grey and silver rain turned into glittering diamond sparkles on the lights and cars, while inside the place glowed like candles.

Finally she said, It’s late. She stood up. He stood and said, I’ll walk you. No, no, she said. But he silently insisted; she stepped outside, the chill air making her snuggle deep into her coat, and when he came out of the door, he immediately put his arm around her to give her the extra warmth. They walked briskly along, raindrops splashing cold on their faces.

The wind picked up, the rain suddenly at a hard slant; they quickened their pace, nearly running the last half block. She pulled the key from her pocket and unlocked the door, stepped inside, and naturally he followed her in; neither of them expected him to run six blocks home in the driving rain. He closed the door, and she was pulling off her coat; he helped her with it, then began to take off his jacket. It was freezing inside the house; she turned on the fireplace and said, My feet are soaked.

She went into her room to change out of her wet things; he followed her and when she turned to face him, he embraced her and began to kiss her. After the initial surprise, she felt nothing about it, including at first the need to stop him. He saw how it was and outfoxed her, slowing down so that she had to pay attention to what he was doing, had to agree and finally to submit, and at the very end, she held him close and tight.

Afterwards, he was caressing her, kissing her hair. Idiot, she said. Just marry the girl. She’ll be a good wife. She’ll put up with your crazy ass. He said nothing. You’re just scared of being bored and miserable, she said. The truth is you make people crazy just so you won’t be bored and miserable. He was quiet; the rain fell and fell and fell. You’re right, he said. I’m always right, she said. It’s the curse of my life.

They listened to the rain. Jacob burned for Elena, but he couldn’t reach her, even now, this way. He was half child, half crazy man; Elena didn’t regret what happened, but it meant they were tied and she didn’t want that burden. In the morning, they went to eat. They said nothing about what happened. They parted and went their ways. Soon after that, he got married. Had another son a year later. She remained unmarried. Her business grew and made her financially comfortable.

Nine years later, his wife died, suddenly. There was an all-night vigil at the funeral home; everyone gathered to condole with the family and socialize and eat and drink. Early in the morning, Jacob was slumped forward, drink in one hand, other hand across his eyes. Elena came and sat down next to him. She was aware of how handsome he was, in his dark suit and nice tie, with the streaks of grey in his wild hair; he still looked young and strong and wild.

He looked around at her. I would have messed up with her, if it wasn’t for you, Elena, he said. I want to tell you that. I know, I’m drunk, but still. It’s true.

She tsked, tenderly brushing his hair. Jacob, Jacob, she murmured.


Katherine Lopez has had her poems, essays, short stories, and other writings published in things like anthologies, alt pubs, and e-zines. She has been asked to submit articles and stories to various publications, and even won a contest or two. She finds it peculiar to speak of herself in the third person.

 


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RAIN • by Katherine Lopez, 2.6 out of 5 based on 48 ratings
Posted on February 27, 2011 in Literary, Stories
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  • http://www.paulfreeman.weebly.com Paul A. Freeman

    An interesting, underwritten style that kept me reading.

    However, the profusion of unnecessary ‘woulds’ and ‘coulds’ in the first four paragraphs was rather annoying.

  • Sheila Cornelius

    I found the style too plodding and the plot meandered. The ending didn’t make much sense.

    Sheila

  • Samantha Memi

    I don’t understand how would and could can be unnecessary. English doesn’t have subjunctives and to fill that void and express supposition the use of could, should and would are essential. They are simple past tenses of irregular verbs and are filled with eccentricity and ambiguity. I love ‘em.
    Oh, and I loved the story as well.

  • Rose Gardener

    Love comes in many guises. A gentle tale.

  • http://www.paulfreeman.weebly.com Paul A. Freeman

    Re #3 – Using ‘would’ or ‘could’ sixteen times in four short paragraphs struck me as a little repetitive.

  • Wanda

    The use of passive verbs is the death of flash fiction. It’s right up there with the drab beginning “he was, she was, it was.” It pains the eye as does something “suddenly” happening.

    These sad little words bring a good story to its knees. You want vivid, active verbs that jump, fly, soar from the page. They yank your reader into the world you have created and we readers are grateful.

    All the big guns concur. Check out On Writing Well by Zinsser or Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers. Or any book on the craft of writing for that matter. Stephen King’s memoir on writing is amazing.

    Respectfully submitted.

  • Samantha Memi

    Any verb is passive if it’s used in the passive mode. There are no passives in this story. But I do think the strength of a piece of writing shows when readers disagree about it. I never count words. I’m not very good at counting. I never read How to Write books.

  • Samantha Memi

    Oh, and one other thing. I don’t like verbs that soar or fly. I like verbs that lie around in the sun thinking: I wonder when the pubs open.
    One woman’s poison is another woman’s…

  • AJ Smith

    I think the strength of this is that you want to keep on reading. You feel invested in the characters and want to know more. The problem with this is that it’s too short. When we make this investment we want more pay back.

    @ Samantha you wrote “I never count words. I’m not very good at counting. I never read How to Write books.” I’m sure you didn’t mean to write it like that because your set up would naturally follow as: “I’m not very good at…”

  • Samantha Memi

    re#9 Why?

  • http://jamesstories.com Seattle Jim

    …and back to the story.

    I like the hinge on which this tale swings (no pun intended). Maturity vs immaturity in it’s most human terms. He, on a roller coaster of passion and unfilled commitments until the final scene; she, a wise and resolute soul who doesn’t give in to unconsidered desires (but once) through to the end.

    I think it’s tough to write that kind of story without external dialogue going on, but in Flash it would be tough to cover as much ground as this one does. So, the internal thoughts/remembrances were spot on.

    Good story. I admired Elena a lot. Like to meet her sometime. Four stars….

  • Jen

    I didn’t find anything interesting about this peice, sorry. The plot seemed like one that’s been overdone.

  • http://castelsarrasin.wordpress.com/ Sandra Crook

    The characters were well drawn, and I felt like I might want to know more about them. It just didn’t quite fulfil the promise of the characterisation though and I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

  • erictreed

    I enjoyed the flow of the story and would have liked more details about the vigil at the funeral home.

  • http://cursorblink.blogspot.com Nick Lewandowski

    Second story in a row I felt started strong before losing some steam.

    For me the most compelling paragraph was the one after they sleep together, ending with Elena saying “it’s the curse of my life.” The image of Jacob slumped in the funeral home was also quite strong.

    Like Seattle Jim I found Elena a very compelling character.

    It was the wife’s “sudden death” that bothered me. Seemed like a cop-out in a story featuring a character of Elena’s depth.

    I would have liked to see Elena and the bride-to-be/second wife meet, or maybe Elena simply to give her impression of the woman.

  • Simone

    For me, the opening sentence would have been more appealing if it read: Elena met Jacob five years ago. Of course, that means the rest could be gripping if as many “had, would, could” words were replaced with more powerful words. Yes, that “fly” off the page. As it stands, it’s an interesting story but more than somewhat lackluster.

    I know, I know … everybody’s got an opinion!

    Hey, Katherine, at least you got published!

  • fishlovesca

    First, sincere thanks to everyone for their reviews. I also want to thank Camille and her team of editors for taking a chance on this story. I knew going in that a story written in this highly stylized and unconventional manner would not be to everyone’s liking. This story goes against the modern writing mandate to “show, not tell.” “Rain” is meant to have a narrative voice, it is all telling, observing from a distance. I feel comfortable writing this way, perhaps because I grew up hearing people, gathered around a table or a room or a campfire, telling stories in voices dry of emotion and devoid of any hurry, an effect I sometimes try to capture when I write, how successfully, only the reader can judge.

    Last, I want to say that writers will (hopefully) share their work with many audiences. Those of us fortunate enough to spend our time reading, writing, and thinking about reading and writing, are often keenest to hear what other writers think of our work. I can not begin to express the honor and pleasure I felt in reading the praise from Samantha Memi, who has written what I consider to be one of the best, if not the best, story ever published on EDF, “Fire In The Heart.”

  • vondrakker

    Oh Katharine !!
    Your piece certainly evoked a diatribe of drivvle!!
    I liked your story Five blazing bright stars worth.
    Thank you for your comments in # 17.
    I totally agree with you here.
    Tho not always with your comments…L O L !!

  • fishlovesca

    vondrakker, I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I love what you do with your stars. Thank you for your kind words.

    :)

  • http://www.paulfreeman.weebly.com Paul A. Freeman

    And I thought all the luvvies were in Hollywood tonight!

  • ajcap

    I try to wean myself from the computer on weekends, but I’m so glad I caught this story. And though I agree with the masses about passive verbs, I didn’t pay any attention to them this time, just let them slide by.

    The story was interesting, the characters and chain of events believable. At the risk of being a luvvie, I enjoyed it very much.

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/28/alternative-world-book-night-plan Oscar Windsor-Smith

    The ultimate measure of a good story must surely be: did the characters and the narrative carry you – the reader – along without noticing any alleged ‘technical errors’? ‘Rain’ did that for me. It swept me up despite my being aware of the ‘telling’. The characters, particularly Elena, were memorable. Only clunk for me was around the sentence: “Nine years later…”. Perhaps a slightly longer version might permit an ending with a better resolution?

    8) scar

  • fishlovesca

    Thank you, ajcap, and thanks Oscar, for your kind words.

    :)

    This story was very different from the other published here a year ago, and got very different reviews. That’s to be expected. Some writers are content to write a certain way all the time, I like to change things up,, take chances. One thing I do like to do is to leave the reader a bit hungry for more, and the comments here about Elena, or wishing this were a longer story, suggests I got that bit right at least.

    Again, thanks to all for your comments.

  • http://cursorblink.blogspot.com Nick Lewandowski

    fishlovesca/Katherine,

    Very interesting thoughts on narrative and voice.

    Always a treat when an author is willing to share what exactly he/she intended with particular stylistic touches.

  • fishlovesca

    Well, thanks, Nick, it would be nice if all authors would share their thoughts on writing, and on the stories they publish here. I feel like I’m left hanging when they don’t come back, at least to acknowledge the comments, if not to answer questions readers may have posted. I realize this is all a little bit “Inside Baseball,” and not many will care, but for those of us who do, it is as you say, interesting to hear the writer’s perspective.

  • http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/ Suzanne

    I went back to your bio halfway through and I wasn’t surprised to find that you write poetry. I would think that’s why this really did not appeal to some and has gone in at gut level with others. There is a flow and a romance that, for me, evokes the stillness of the not-quite-mistress. Elena is something other than the usual, and even after this is challenged by their one physical encounter, she remains outside and separate. It glows. Lovely. I’m not a poet but current course work has enforced closer attention to the form :)

  • fishlovesca

    Well, thank you, Suzanne, for the nice comments — I like that you related to the the “flow” and “glow” of the story, and suspect that you may be a poet yourself. Yes, studying poetry and writing it does train one to pay close attention to details.

    :)

  • http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/ Suzanne

    Katherine, I am hoping I am poet enough to get a pass for the one assignment requiring I write a poem! I think I learned a few things though. One of these was that, while prose aims to communicate its message through the meaning of the words themselves; poems seem to build a gestalt of sounds, rhythms, and echoes. The reader has to interpret the gestalt and not rely just on the words.
    Or something :)

  • fishlovesca

    I was discussing this on my FB writing group. Poetry is the least restrictive and most disciplined of the writing arts. Everything is under the poet’s control, from where and how the poem is written, to symbol, letter, word, sound, meter, space, borders, medium, message, meaning, and everything in relation to everything else. Of course it depends too on whether you are writing free verse or in a form that calls for certain parameters, such as haiku. I enjoy the challenge of writing poetry very much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you enjoy it, too, since you knew enough to know that I write poetry; you are lucky indeed to know what this means.

  • http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/ Suzanne

    I’ll let you know when I get the grade back. If it’s anything above ‘WTF is this piece of old tat?!’, I’ll be delighted and might inflict it on everyone!

  • Gaius

    Loved this subtle story, lots of hidden depths. Only quibble was a slight confusion, for me, as regards the number of wives, girlfriends and children in the first paragraph.
    G

  • fishlovesca

    I’ve come back a number of times to look at the comments on this story for various reasons, most recently because it was referenced as the inspiration for a story written by one of my favorite authors. But I had not read to the bottom and did not realize there was a new comment attached in July. Sorry Gaius, never meant to ignore your post! Thank you very much for your kind comments on this story.

    :)

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